The following items appeared on separate pages of the Around Naples Encyclopedia on the dates indicated. They have been consolidated here onto a single page to provide a chronological format that is somewhat easier to follow. There are occasional "Also see"-links to longer entries not on this page. Maps of the metro are at numbers 17, 19 and 26. latest update is #39
It's fun to watch them work on the new
metropolitana subway station at Piazza della Borsa
in downtown Naples. Actually, you watch a lot of
men in hard-hats stand around leaning on their
shovels waiting for a lonely archaeologist to
finish sorting these bits into one box and those
pieces into another box. The station is at
sea-level and right on top of part of the ancient
Roman southern wall of the city. That wall
apparently incorporates even older segments of the
original Greek wall of Neapolis; thus, it is a
treasure trove for archaeologists but a stumbling
block for those whose main concern is a huge urban
population without adequate rapid transit. Some of
the unearthed segments of the wall, however, have
now been reinforced and cemented in place; thus,
maybe the rumor is true: they are planning to make
it all a sort of combination museum/train station.
happening at a number of the new subway stations.
The one adjacent to the archaeological museum
has—encased in plexiglass over the entrance!—the
original, splendid bronze
horse's head presented by Lorenzo the
Magnificent (1449-92) to Diomede Carafa, the
representative of the Aragonese court in Naples in
the late 15th century. It had been on display in
the museum, itself; now it's in a subway station.
This approach to "art for the masses" has left
some people delighted, and others less so.
Yet another train line, and if this one ever gets up and running, it will be a boon for the city. Back in 1990, when Naples hosted some of the games for the World Cup in soccer, they were to build a "rapid tram" line from town out to the San Paolo stadium. Such a line would have been an enormous asset—even after the games—to the city's struggling transit system.
Well, stations went in and the underground tunnel was built, and they even ran a test car or two down the tracks at the time, as I recall. Yet, the line never opened; it was unfinished or too poorly built to operate, and for the next decade, it just lay there gathering cobwebs below the surface of the section of town known as "Fuorigrotta". It was, in the words of the President of the Campania Region (of which Naples is the capital) and mayor of the city of Naples during the 1990s, Antonio Bassolino, who spoke about it the other day on television, a remnant of the great "tangentopoli" scandals of the early part of that decade. (That's an interesting word, translating approximately to "bribe city".) In other words, everybody was on the take, and the money to do the job right just disappeared.
That appears to
be changing. They have been working on the
stations, track, and tunnel for a number of months
now and current plans call for at least part of
this renovated rapid light-rail transit line to be
incorporated into the city's transit system within
two years. Finishing the entire line will take
about five years. There will be seven or eight
stations along the route, one that will connect
the extreme western zone of Naples in the area of
the stadium and new university campus to the port
of Naples at Piazza Municipio. That is something
that even the new subway line does not do.
Naples certainly doesn’t lack ambitious engineering plans. The decades-long (and still going on) new metropolitana—subway—is the classic case. Little by little, that is winding its way towards completion, and the sections that are already in service have made getting around the city much easier.
Getting into and out of the city is another problem. There are two secondary narrow–gauge railway lines that serve the city. One is called the Circumvesuviana; it starts near the central train station and has an extensive network of stations and track to the west through the communities on the slopes of Vesuvius—the most densely populated area in Europe—and on out to the Sorrentine peninsula. The other one is called the Circumflegrea—also known as the Cumana; it, too, starts in the center of town and, as the name suggests, goes west to serve the outlying areas in the Campi Flegrei and beyond, all the way to end of the Gulf of Naples, itself, near Cuma.
The latest big engineering plan involves the Cumana. As it stands now, in order to get to the first station, Soccavo, outside the city to the west, the Cumana goes through a long (2 miles) and very deep tunnel that bores beneath the entire hill of Naples that the “Vomero” section of the city rests on. Many decades ago, the Vomero was remote enough to be a vacation spot for the well–heeled; to rest up a bit in the “countryside,” you went up to Vomero. Now, of course, that part of town is as busy and congested as anywhere else in the metropolitan area; indeed, the new subway line was started in order to connect Vomero with the main downtown area.
The plan in question calls for putting in another station on the Cumana line between the downtown end–of–the-line and what is now the first stop, Soccavo. That station will lie directly below the massive Vomero hill. Then they will sink a passenger elevator from the center of Vomero 100 meters down through the hill to the new station. It will be—claims the report in the paper—the deepest subway station in the world. The plan calls for connecting—by conveyor walkways for passengers—the new station with the nearby Cilea station of the new metropolitana. The theory, then, is that with a single change at that juncture, you will be able to start your trip anywhere out to the west of the city and wind up on the new subway line with its 20–some stations.All this ambition sounds like a script for an invasion of the Mole People, and I am reminded of the Spanish move in the 17th–century to prohibit anymore digging, quarrying, and burrowing beneath the city out of fear of cave–ins, which were, even then, a problem. Engineers, of course, tell us that modern methods and materials of construction will actually make the subsoil safer. But, then, engineers are used to whistling in the dark!
There is a famous postcard of the Bay of Naples seen from the Posillipo hill above Mergellina. It’s the classic view: the waters in front of the Villa Comunale and the seaside road, via Caracciolo, the Castel dell’Ovo, and the double peaks of Mt. Vesuvius and its companion, Mt. Somma, in the background with the beginnings of the Sorrentine peninsula spreading to the south. The photo is usually taken such that there is a famous, solitary Mediterranean pine tree in the foreground.
We used to joke that the reason they used that same tree all the time was that it was the only one left in Naples. That is, of course, an exaggeration, since, as I have pointed out elsewhere, there are a number of large parks in Naples: the Villa Comunale, the Floridiana, the grounds of the Capodimonte museum, and the vineyards of San Martino. Those parks don’t change the fact, however, that your average neighborhood trees, the ones that line the street in front of your house, little by little, over the years, can’t help but lose the battle with encroaching, egregious overbuilding. We need a garage—those trees go. An extra parking space or two?—chop, chop. (Forget the downright forests sacrificed to illegally built, entire blocks of flats.)Thus, I am unhappy and suspicious when I read that 60 (!) trees have been chopped down in Fuori Grotta to accommodate construction sites for the new underground train line coming in from the area of the new university and San Paolo football stadium. “New underground train line” is, of course, ridiculous. That is the train that was supposed to be up and running in 1990 for the World Cup soccer matches. Now that incompetence and bribery have been relegated to the rubbish heap of history, the train line (officially to be known as Line #6) will be finished and joined to the main lines of the metropolitana in Naples. This has meant performing quintuple by-pass surgery on the one main road, viale Augusto, that leads through that section of town, creating a labyrinth of one-way detours to get from one end of the road to the other, one mile away. Of the 30 palm trees that were there a few days ago, 8 are still there; the other 22 have been moved, but shall be returned. Sixty pines, however got the axe. The city promises that they will replaced by 94 new ones when the construction is finished. City promises—well, they are what they are.
I don’t know how many optimistic
articles I have read over the years about the
new Naples metro system, the underground train
lines, that the mayor of Naples has called “…the
largest ongoing urban project in the nation…”.
Well, it certainly is big, and it certainly is
ongoing—with the latest date for opening major
sections now set at about 2010, give or take
(mostly give) a couple of years. (Fudge
factories in Naples make fudge factors, not
fudge.) The work to be done is considerable:
(a) Bring in the line number 1 that currently ends at Piazza Dante into the stations at Piazza Toledo (now staggering towards completion) and Piazza Municipio (overcoming, here, archaeological problems—please hope they don’t find another Roman ship—as well as geological ones—they’re mucking around down in the aquifer); then, run east to the university to via Duomo and, finally, the main train station and Piazza Garibaldi, now being planned/built by Dominque Perrault, the French architect whose works include the new Mariinsky opera house in St, Petersburg, Russia.
(b) Finish the number 6 line [see above] that runs from Fuorigrotta (including a stop at the new university campus at Monte Sant’Angelo) to Mergellina (that section will open shortly) and on into Piazza Municipio and the passenger port, the true “main” station of the metro line. (The last section, from Mergellina to the port, involves difficult engineering and construction—not that the rest of the system is a piece of cake.)
(c) The last
work to be done will be leading the line out from
the main train station at Piazza Garibaldi up to
the airport and beyond, where it will join the
first station (now in operation), thus completing
the circle around the city of Naples. (I have not
read any realistic projection of a completion date
for this last stage, although plans for the airport station
are approved.) I notice that the plans for both
Piazza Municipio and Piazza Garibaldi do not show
many streets for cars. The idea of turning the
city into a pedestrian mall is pie-in-the-sky.
Piazza Garibaldi (projected)
Piazza Municipio (projected)
15. Oct 2009The regional Campania government has just allotted 228 million euros to finish large sections of the new metropolitana, including the airport station at Capodichino airport (aka Naples International Airport). The station is supposed to be in service sometime in 2013, but that date is optimistic. In any event it will be—according to published literature on the subject—the only metro station in Italy on the premises (well, beneath the premises) of a major airport. (It is also the largest ongoing construction project in Italy, with the exception of the nation-wide high-speed train system currently being built.) The airport station will be one link in the chain of stations that lead away from the main train station, up and out along the long Secondigliano corridor (other stations on that stretch are now under construction) to the terminus at Piscinola in Scampia (already in service as the terminus of the already functioning Vomero section of the line that leads into the city); that will complete the giant metro circle around the entire city, linking all points to the port, the train station, and the airport.
16. Nov 2010
That idea is not far-fetched and, indeed, has been done before during the construction of the metro; trains coming down from the Vomero on the way to the museum passed through the incomplete Materdei station for many weeks before that station was finally ready to handle passengers.
37. update from June 2021 - I last looked in on this particular Metro station at #16 here. The was 10 years ago, give or take. Earlier mentions of this stop are at #'s 14, 11, 8, 6 and 2. This is part of the #6 line of the Metro network. It's as Arco Mirelli, midway along the route. They started at the bottom.
They're still working on it, but the surface looks pretty good (image, right). Beneath the surface is pretty good, too, so they say. Tracks look good, platforms, etc. maybe a few odds and ends to go. It's a long station. What you see here are the two top and bottom green west entrances (on the right-hand side). This square is named "Quattro Giornate" (Four Days), named for this WW2 episode, as is the statue in the middle of the roundabout. (The U.S. consulate is just out of view on the lower left.) The large public seaside park, the Villa Comunale starts at the top right and runs for a mile to the east (right). The other (eastern) entrance to and exit from the station come up a hundred meters or so down the line and that is the end of the #6 line. For now. The line will then continue to the city hall at Piazza Municipio. (Read all about it by going to the top of this very page and reading everything. Take your time. No one else is in a hurry). It's been quite a ride so far. For 20 years the Metro has been the largest on-going undertaking of urban construction in Italy. When is the next and first train from this station? I asked. Iron-clad 'probably' says October. I see that my first sentence 20 years ago started, "It's fun to watch them work..." I was much younger.
Be aware that this #6 line is separate from the 'great circle' of the Metro stations, most of which is at some altitude) displayed at various points on this page (#26, for example). This line runs along the bottom of those maps (at sea level), connecting only at Municipio (but not yet --don't worry, there is a way! Keep reading.) This line is meant to get you into the city from the western suburb of Fuori Grotta. Note also that today --2021 -- the famous Mergellina station is not shown on the Metro maps. It isn't part of the Metro! At one time (in the 1920s --100 years ago!) there were two train stations in Naples: Piazza Garibaldi and Mergellina, the latter being the newer elegant one for the well-heeled. Today, however, there is a spiderweb of rail lines beneath the city. So if you are at the Mostra (Fair Grounds -- image, left) and want to get to the main station at Garibaldi, go 3 stops and get off at Mergellina. Change to the #2 line. Thanks to modern tunnel-boring machines you can get to Garibaldi in a few stops: Piazza Amedeo [not 'AmAdeo'-- that's the Music Man); Montesanto; Piazza Cavour (the big National Archaeological Museum) and, bingo! Mergellina.
No, that's not all. These people have been digging tunnels through mountains even before there were mountains. There are some stations that are still very useful today. Check Mergellina again. As noted, you can angle up at 11 o'clock (or NxNW if you can't tell time) and take the #2 line into the city (but not yet. Some day. ) If you go in the other direction, back to the SE, you pass back into Fuorigrotta though the same hill you just came through (on the new #6). That is still the #2 line but was really part of the old Naples ->Pozzuoli-> Formia -> Rome. The first stop out of the tunnel is Cavalleggeri-Aosta and there are others along the beaches near Pozzuoli. People still use those stations to go to the beach out there. Many of the stations are from the 1920s, built by Mussolini (he had help) to take the load off the only rail line to Rome, up the center, by Cassino, the route taken by the new high-speed Super-Duper train from Naples.
Still not all. There are two narrow-gauge railways in Naples. One is the "Cumana". Some of the stations are now part of the #2 line that serves the western Gulf of Naples, that is, the bay of Pozzuoli (in the above paragraph). It's limited but useful. The second is the gigantic Circumvesuviana, with over 100 stations. Most are surface platform stations, but some go through tunnels once they start out to Sorrento. They all serve Naples from the main train station to the east, to and around Vesuvius, the most densely populated area in Europe (yes, denser than the Ruhr in Germany).
You can skip a lot of this train nonsense by using the cable-cars. They still carry thousands of people a day who live here
and just want to get up and down (from 300-400 meters to sea level).
I saved the best for last: mythical stations.
38. update Aug 12, 2021
The "Duomo" Metropolitana station is now open. It has taken 20 years to build. The results are impressive. The station is 40 meters below ground. The main entrance here (image) is not really that near the actual Duomo (Cathedral), a few hundred meters up the sloped via Duomo to the north. The station you see is on the large boulevard, Corso Umberto, that runs from the Borsa (stock exchange) to Piazza Garibaldi and the main train station. The square is Piazza Nicola Amore, marked by the "4 Gemelli" (Quadruplets), 4 identical buildings built during the Risanamento, the urban renewal of Naples in 1900. (Easily located at #26, above. Building engineers say this one was the most difficult station of all.
39. update March 31, 2023
Local papers called it the "final rush". That means "the last touches", I think, but if you say something in English it means you're serious. It was a photo op for the opening of the last station in the Nunber 6 line of the
Naples Metropolitan, still the largest on-going construction project of any city in Italy. Various "bigs" were there (see? it sounds better!) The president of the Campania Region, someone of European Commission, etc. That was yesterday, the "inauguration". You can't ride it yet. Maybe in a few days. This is the infamous "ghost train" they stopped working on at one point entirely. No one was riding it because you couldn't go anywhere. The two sort of go together.
The entrance to the station is the large bright building at the lower left. The space in front is the square of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The train station down below is lovely. It is the last stop before the train continues below the Royal Palace (upper right corner) and ends at Piazza Municipio (off the image, upper left.)
The goal is to get you from the Mostra (Overseas Fair Grounds), (bottom station on the map, left) to the City Hall and downtown Naples (top station on map). Our newly opened station (second from top) is called Piazza Plebiscito, the square you see in the upper right at the Royal Palace. Yes —gasp-sputter— you have to hoof it for about 90 seconds. (Stay home.) Physically, this short stretch of 8 stations is not part of the city-girdling Metropolitana (image, right. Our short #6 runs at sea-level west-east across the bottom of the map on the right (more of less where the empty blue space is (bottom, left). Many of the stations of the large city-circling Metro are at altitudes of 250+ meters. This is still going to take a while longer. Don't worry — if you've got the money, they've got the time.
This is not over, not by a long shot. The city has announced it is accepting bids to extend the #6 line two stations in the other direction —that is, from the Fair Grounds back to Bagnoli and Posillipo, thus running down off the bottom of the vertical map on the left and thus under the entire 1-mile seaward side of the Fair grounds. I am writing these lines on April 1, but I read them yesterday, so I don't think it's an April Fool's gag. Actually, it's not a bad idea. Construction provides jobs, so in a couple of years I wouldn't be surprised if they decide that places a bit further up need a station. They have to stop at the Alps.